2019, my year of consistency

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Each year, I choose a word or an overarching theme to guide me for the coming twelve months. It’s not something I just pluck out of thin air, but something that I feel is going to make a big impact on my life and my work, something that comes to me during weeks of reflection on the year gone by and visualisation for the year ahead. Last year, I chose ‘intentional growth’ as my guiding principle, and I wrote about my aims for putting intention behind everything that I was doing to grow in my business and my personal life. It helped me learn to not only set goals, but to break down the steps I needed to take to achieve them, assign deadlines to each step and grow slowly but surely in each aspect of my life and business. The year before, in 2017, I chose the word ‘priorities’ to help me learn to live more as an essentialist, focusing on the things that were important to me, saying no to things that didn’t align with that and not overloading and overworking myself as I had done in 2016, the year my daughter was born. Both words turned out to be transformative, and have remained as guiding principles for me that have now become habitual.

I have done a lot of soul searching in the past month to work out what I really want from 2019, and more than that, about what I am realistically able to do or feel or achieve in the year I give birth to my second baby. Having a newborn around is never easy, but I’m aware that when Rory was born my maternity leave was a break from a job I didn’t like, the opportunity to start my own business and change my life. And now, I am living a life I love, working a job that inspires and motivates me every single day. I’ve spent the last year striving to tip the balance more towards my work, and since moving house and finding childcare, that has become our reality. Having another baby is a step away from that, a pause I don’t feel ready to take, and a thrust back into full time parenting that makes me nervous and unsure about how I will cope. I want another baby, of course! I’m excited and so grateful to be growing our family, of finding out who this new person is that will enter our lives in a few months, and to see Rory form a bond and a friendship with her little sister. But I also think it’s OK to acknowledge all of the other feelings I have about this change coming to our family dynamic, and to be apprehensive about not all of the changes being good or welcomed. The impact on my work is a big one, and one I have been thinking through a lot so I can figure out how best to approach this year.

One need not push it, the understanding will come. Some things must be accepted as being out of reach, even though they act upon us, and we are enriched by them. There is a saying in my family, this is God’s business.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The first thing that became clear to me (thanks journalling, for never failing to give me clarity), was that other than being desperate to have more time to spend with my partner and time all together for us as a family, I have everything else that I have ever wanted. I am truly happy, fulfilled, and have no stresses or worries other than the daily demands of a busy and full life. I don’t need to change my house, my town, my job or anything else to make me happy because I am happy right where I am. I’ve let myself sink into that, enjoy it, reap the rewards of several years of hard work to have a baby, start a business, and move out of the city. To change the things that weren’t making me happy into things that did. That’s the reason why I have chosen ‘consistency’ as my word for 2019. It’s not a year I need to drive growth or change or big achievements, nor is it a year where I need to understand exactly where it is going to take me before I’ve walked a few more steps down its path. Instead, it’s a year where I need to focus on showing up consistently as I am. As a mother, as a business owner, and as a human that wants to feel as much joy, presence, calm and fulfilment as possible through all seasons of my life. I want to focus on planning ahead, being organised, developing strategies to help me cope better with the demands of my family, my home and my business without constantly feeling like I am chasing my tail, dropping the ball or falling behind. There is so much that I can do to improve, make better use of my time, be more present and feel more in control and less stressed and anxious about everything on my to-do list. To help me fully appreciate how lucky I am to have so many things that make me happy, and so few things that bring me down.

I struggled a lot with staying consistent in 2018. We moved house at the end of May, and the months leading up to that were unsettling and stressful. Moving was a huge upheaval for us all, not long after that I got pregnant and in the next three months even getting through the day was a challenge. It wasn’t the easiest year for me to maintain any kind of consistency, schedule or routine and as a result I ended the year feeling like I’d been playing catch up on everything. I didn’t seem to be able to get on top of the cooking, cleaning or washing at home, and as for my business…well I felt constantly behind on everything and totally unable to plan ahead or stick to a schedule for things like blogging, social media, business development and so on. Sure, I don’t have a lot of time and I have a whole lot on my plate, but I don’t ever like to use that as an excuse. There’s always a way to do better, to make life easier, and to bring more of what makes you feel good into your day to day. I felt a lot last year that I couldn’t have the impact I’d like to have done because I dropped the ball on simple tasks like posting on Instagram, connecting with my email subscribers etc that could have helped me reach more people, attract more clients and grow my business. At home, I felt the same about the housework, like I was so disorganised I spent more time tidying and scrabbling together meals than I did enjoying our space and playing with my kiddo. It just wasn’t the way I wanted myself or my family to feel.

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These are the areas of my life that I am focusing on being consistent in for 2019…

1. My business

I’ve accepted that 2019 is not a year for significant growth in my business. It is a year for finding some simple strategies that enable me to keep working, keep showing up and staying visible whilst managing the demands of my expanding family. I’m taking time to plan, write and schedule content, map out my year and decide ahead of time where my focus needs to be each month or each season. I’m committing to simple things, like posting every other day on Instagram, writing one blog post a week and one newsletter a month, but planning all of it one to two months in advance. Batch writing, photographing and scheduling is a great way to save time and get more impact with less effort - so I’m finally making time to do that and set myself up for consistency.

There’s no big goals here, other than just showing up regularly and intentionally. I’m shifting my focus a little to creativity (as you will see below) and any big ideas I have for growing my business are going firmly on a list for 2020. I’m using that list to see how I can best set myself up for a year of growth in my business next year, but without any pressure to make anything happen other than to just maintain what I already have.

2. My home

A big goal for 2019 for me is to finish decorating our home, apart from our kitchen and lean-to area because this will be part of a bigger renovation and extension in a few years time. To stay on track with my goal, I’ve broken down each room into individual tasks, and divided them into each month of the year so that I can try to get a room or an area of our home finished in turn. January’s goal is to finish decorating Rory’s room, and February’s goal is to turn my attention to the baby’s room. It’s a mess of laundry, kids books and is slowly collecting other junk too and I really want it to be a peaceful space for me to change and feed the baby, and somewhere either Gav and I can sleep with either kiddo should we need to. Later in the year I aim to renovate the main family bathroom, finish up the hallways and then finally work on my studio space. I’ve mapped the year out, so I know what I have to do each month to stay on track.

Aside from renovations, I want to stay consistent (as best I can) with managing our home. With almost two kids, a regularly booked out Airbnb guest room and another spare room that’s full a good chunk of the time with family or friends, our house is rather lively to say the least. I want to commit to meal-planning on a fortnightly basis, stick to a cleaning schedule (this may involve getting a cleaner too!) organise all my cupboards so I don’t run out of essential things, waste time hunting for things I’ve lost, and feel constantly frustrated by all our stuff. I am nesting big time right now, so using all that hormonal energy to clear out cupboards, crack out my label maker and get organised. Oh boy it feels so good to be on top of simple things like this that can easily overwhelm me.

3. My finances

I did really well in 2018 to grow my savings, and I have a target to reach personal savings of 10k by the end of 2019. I need to save around £350 a month in order to do that, so it means consistently watching my spending, staying on top of my finances and putting that extra money into my savings account. I’m using an iPhone app called ‘Accounts’ to keep on top of my daily spending, it’s really simple to use and I’ve set budgets, entered in monthly bills etc so it does much of the work for me. It won’t be as easy to save this year as I won’t be working so much when I have the baby, but if I’m careful with my maternity allowance and use my extra Keeping In Touch days (the amount you are allowed to work while still receiving maternity allowance as a freelancer - more info in this post) wisely, I should be able to reach my target. I’ve always been a saver, and more so now because of my plans to take some time out to travel in 2020. The more I have saved, the easier it will be to take that time away and pay for a trip or two abroad, so it’s a really motivating goal to keep stashing money away.

4. My creativity

I focused a lot last year on improving and growing my business, and although i undertook some personal shoots that really boosted my creativity, much of what I turned my attention to was business related. I didn’t take nearly enough photographs for myself, and really got out of the habit of picking up my camera and documenting our daily lives. This year, I’ve set myself the task of doing a 365 Project, taking a photo a day for the whole year to challenge me as a photographer, help me stay present through this transformative time in our lives, and tell the story of us. Capture what we do each day, even if it’s messy and chaotic and imperfect.

I’m so inspired and energised already by a little over a week of picking up my camera more, and my head is so full of ideas for images I want to take and things I want to try. I started shooting film again at the end of last year, and it’s a big goal of mine to keep that up in 2019. Shoot more, shoot film, print my photos, tell my story and inspire others to do the same. I might not be able to focus on growing my business this year, but by shifting my focus to growing my creativity I know that will impact my business in a positive way.

5. My wellbeing

I know from past experience, that if my wellbeing is not a top priority then everything else crumbles. It can’t be an afterthought, or something I get around to once my kids, work and household have all been seen to. It has to be a daily practice, as much as is possible, and there have to be some non negotiables that find their way into my routine. Being in my third trimester, and soon to have my hands full with a newborn again, I’m edging my way into survival mode and time to take care of myself is hard to find. I don’t need an hour to work out every day (although, I wouldn’t say no to that!), but what I do need is just to do simple, manageable things like drink enough water, take 5 mins to read or journal or meditate, take my vitamins and maintain even a basic level of self-care. There will be time in the not-too distant future to have more time for myself, to get back my fitness and strength, but for now I just need to make the most of five minutes here or there to do something that nourishes me.

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If you’re interested in figuring out your own word for the year, I recommend Susannah Conway’s free resource which you can download here. As with anything, I think the key is for the process of choosing your word and setting goals for yourself, is for there to be a clear “why” behind what you are doing. I choose a word for each year because it helps me find the connection, fulfilment and meaning that I am always searching for. I think that plans, goals, words and so on are only as strong as the intention behind them. If you have a strong reason WHY you are doing something, it’s easy to follow through. You don’t need to reward yourself or find tricks to motivate yourself, because the act of doing is reward enough.

I have a post coming next week about how I plan ahead for my year, and set meaningful goals for my life and work, including all the resources I use. Leave me any questions in the comments if you have any, and I’ll do my best to answer them in the post. In the meantime, I’m sending you all my good vibes for a fulfilling year ahead, and of living it in the way that truly makes you happy.

life & familySiobhan Watts